Columnist: Lockout “could not have come at a better time for Burke”

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Four years ago today, Brian Burke was named president and GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Suffice to say, things have not gone as planned.

With Burke in charge, the Leafs have failed to make the playoffs and are still without many of the aspects they were lacking before his much-ballyhooed arrival – most notably, a No. 1 center, reliable goaltending and, perhaps most galling, “proper levels of pugnacity, testosterone, truculence and belligerence.”

With that in mind, the National Post’s Michael Traikos argues that the NHL lockout “could not have come at a better time for Burke.”

The longer it goes, the more time he buys. Prospects such as Morgan Rielly, Tyler Biggs and Stuart Percy might be one step closer to being NHL-ready. And salary-cap dead weights such as Tim Connolly (US$4.75-million) and Matthew Lombardi (US$3.5-million) would come off the books.

At the same time, Joffrey Lupul and Clarke MacArthur would also be free agents, but maybe that is not such a bad thing. Maybe the Leafs try to re-sign Lupul for less than his current US$4.25-million salary. And with another year in the minors under their belts, maybe Matt Frattin or Nazem Kadri simply takes MacArthur’s spot on the second line.

Or maybe Burke takes a look at what’s available in free agency. Last year’s crop of free agents were limited, but with teams unable to talk to their players during a lockout, there potentially could be more names on the market in 2013.

Would Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry reunite with Burke and head coach Randy Carlyle in Toronto? Would the Leafs take a run at Boston’s Nathan Horton, New Jersey’s Travis Zajac, San Jose’s Ryan Clowe or Florida’s Stephen Weiss?

Another summer also means Burke has another opportunity to hammer out a trade for Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo. Or maybe Burke signs free agent Tim Thomas, Niklas Backstrom or Mike Smith.

Many observers believe Burke will be fired if the Leafs miss the playoffs for a fifth straight time under his watch. And hey, you can’t be blamed for missing the playoffs if there aren’t any.

By that logic, Burke may indeed have a better shot of keeping his job if the NHL were to cancel the entire season.

Which somehow seems wrong.